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  1. #1
    Feral Member Nicodemus's Avatar
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    high/low cadence and "fast/slow" twitch muscles

    Hey,

    I found this on the Q&A at ctc magazine, I was rather intrigued.

    I have always been, IMO, quite a strong rider, and my body's muscle type seems to be of the bulkier type. When it's toned. I've accepted that this is my riding style, and it's natural to me. I am currently wrecking some MKS touring platforms after only a month of use, and my last bike made good use of the warranty with 4 pedal replacements in a year. They're rugby prop legs, nuff said?

    I'm certainly not a novice rider, so I wonder if the thrust of the article this guy mentions is wrong?

    Just curious how most of you do regarding the fast/slow cadence thing, and how it matches your muscle type.

    (sorry for cut'n pasting a long letter, it was he what done wrote it not me)

    ________________________________
    Why novices push big gears – 2000.07

    I read the reply to Stephen Horsfall's letter about larger gears with interest. I think you may be mistaken about the explanation as to why novices tend to ride with lower cadence and larger gears though. Each muscle in the body contains two types of fibre; fast twitch and slow twitch. The relative amounts that each person has are more or less predetermined genetically, and you cannot increase the proportion of "fast twitch" with the sort of training most cyclists do. Nor can you train one sort of fibre rather than the other. Briefly, the difference between the fibres is as follows. Fast twitch can produce high forces, and readily does anaerobic work but therefore tires quickly. Slow twitch muscle is relatively unable to perform anaerobic work, and produces less force, but because it does so almost entirely from aerobic sources it is able to keep working much longer. The minor differences in speed of contraction are unlikely to come into play for the speeds of most cyclists' pedalling. In fact, to achieve the same speed with the smaller forces they have available, those with more slow twitch fibres will tend to pedal more quickly.

    So why do novices, even those who are fit from other exercise, try to push large gears slowly whilst regular cyclists spin lower gears faster?

    I am not an expert muscle physiologist, but my theory is as follows: in addition to increases in VO2 max etc. from training, the other effect of training is to increase the amount of small blood vessels in the muscle groups which are trained. Cycling uses muscles which are relatively little used by other exercise and the blood supply to the cycling muscles of a regular cyclist is therefore greater than even a fit person who does not cycle. As novice cyclists begin to ride, those muscle groups rapidly move towards anaerobic respiration, which essentially means that their fast twitch fibres have to do all the work. The higher force available lends itself to a lower cadence to maintain a given speed, although the muscles tire quickly. The regular cyclist has much better blood supply to the muscles used by cycling and therefore is able to remain aerobic for long periods (short hills and sprints excepted), if and only if a high cadence is maintained, allowing most of the work to be done by slow twitch fibres. The regular cyclist therefore uses a higher cadence.

    I should be interested to hear from any expert physiologist out there!

    James Bellringer — Wimbledon
    Quote Originally Posted by KrisPistofferson View Post
    Did you just say "minarchist?" I'm going to start a 10-page vaginathon because only Libertarians can define Libertarianism. Also, you're mean.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nicodemus
    "The relative amounts that each person has are more or less predetermined genetically, and you cannot increase the proportion of "fast twitch" with the sort of training most cyclists do. Nor can you train one sort of fibre rather than the other."

    I should be interested to hear from any expert physiologist out there!
    Andy Coggan, who apparently knows a little about cycling physiology, feels differently. See Table 2, rows 5, 7, and 12. http://www.cyclingpeakssoftware.com/power411/levels.asp

  3. #3
    Videre non videri
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    I thought I was a spinner, but after building a singlespeed with a fairly high gearing (86 gear inches), I've concluded that I'm definitely NOT a spinner. My legs seem to work a lot better at the lower cadence ranges (50-70 RPM).

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    I think it's simpler than that.

    To ride comfortably at 90RPM or higher you need clipless pedals and practice. It's hard to get that sort of cadence - much less 100RPM+ without the practice.
    Eric

    2005 Trek 5.2 Madone, Red with Yellow Flames (Beauty)
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    Read my cycling blog at http://riderx.info/blogs/riderx
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    Quote Originally Posted by ericgu
    I think it's simpler than that.

    To ride comfortably at 90RPM or higher you need clipless pedals and practice. It's hard to get that sort of cadence - much less 100RPM+ without the practice.
    As just one example of the absurdity of this statement (at least the clipless pedals part), check the average cadences for the hour record over the last 60 or so years.

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    I don't think clipless pedals have anything to do with it per se. It is difficult to spin a medium to high cadence if your feet are not fastened to the pedal. This can be done with clips and straps or with clipless (have used both). Clipless are more convenient to get into and out of, as well as being more secure for general riding (straps not locked down hard). Doing 100+ cadence on platform pedals would be quite difficult.

    This may be part of the reason beginning cyclist generally turn slower cadences: they are afraid to fasten their feet to the pedals because then they couldn't get off in a crash. As a result, they can't comfortably pedal as quickly. Have you ever noticed the first reaction from non-bikers to hearing about clipless pedals is "Isn't that dangerous."

    God bless!
    Wayne J.

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    The relative amounts that each person has are more or less predetermined genetically, and you cannot increase the proportion of "fast twitch" with the sort of training most cyclists do. Nor can you train one sort of fibre rather than the other.
    This statement in particular seems ridiculous to me. Though the proportion of fast twitch to slow twitch fibres is partly detemined genetically, you most certainly can train one group over the other, in fact this is fundamental to the training philosophies of most sports, as Asgelles reference shows. I can't take the letter's author seriously if he disagrees with this.

    WRT to why novices often have low cadences, I think it's simply down to force of habit. I used to ride with a low cadence (around 60) when I first got a roadbike, but then forced myself to ride with a higher cadence for a bit. It took a few weeks to get used to it but I certainly feel I am better off as a result, I now automatically ride with a cadence of 90-110 and it feels a lot more efficient overall.

    I do beleive that optimal cadence will vary somewhat between people but not as much as some make out. I think you'll find that most people who ride with a low cadence of say 60-80 because "it feels more comfortable", have never tried a high cadence for any real length of time - it does take getting used to but as studies have shown is generally better.
    Last edited by Endox; 05-21-07 at 09:49 AM.

  8. #8
    Feral Member Nicodemus's Avatar
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    I thought that the letter was a bit off in implying that one could not train either muscle type at all. But there are natural differences in people's musculature and body type.

    As I said, I've been riding my whole life and I've always been quite hard on the pedals.

    I find clipless more secure, and think it helps get into a more regular spin and muscle use. Though I don't ride clipless.

    I suppose part of my compensation (I don't even have toeclips and I ride with hiking boots) is that my feet are firmly pushing down on the pedal, even on the upstroke. Perhaps this is a constant pressure on the pedal axle that is not good for it?

    Still, even if I changed my riding style somehow, I feel that I would ride hard. I enjoy it, and I love the pump my legs get out of it. It's just that I don't consider myself a noob, so I wonder how much of that explanation is valid to explain cyclists riding in high gears.
    Quote Originally Posted by KrisPistofferson View Post
    Did you just say "minarchist?" I'm going to start a 10-page vaginathon because only Libertarians can define Libertarianism. Also, you're mean.

  9. #9
    Senior Member megamo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CdCf
    I thought I was a spinner, but after building a singlespeed with a fairly high gearing (86 gear inches), I've concluded that I'm definitely NOT a spinner. My legs seem to work a lot better at the lower cadence ranges (50-70 RPM).
    me too

  10. #10
    Jewish Media Conspirator asherlighn's Avatar
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    The letter in the OP is based on some popular misconceptions of how type I, II, and IIx are utilized by the body. I dont remember it exactly, but I do remember reading in "The New Rules of Lifting" and other books about muscle development that the common misconception is that the muscle fibers are being utilized independently of each other. Its not quite as simple as that.

    I would propose that most beginners use a low cadence because they assume the hardest gear that they can comfortably push is the one that will make them go the fastest.
    Quote Originally Posted by dutret
    The fact is that most peoples sense of what rides well is easily overcome by their sense of what looks cool.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by asgelle
    As just one example of the absurdity of this statement (at least the clipless pedals part), check the average cadences for the hour record over the last 60 or so years.
    Sure, you can get the same results with clips, but you won't find many novices adopting them these days, nor many riders using them.
    Eric

    2005 Trek 5.2 Madone, Red with Yellow Flames (Beauty)
    199x Lemond Tourmalet, Yellow with fenders (Beast)

    Read my cycling blog at http://riderx.info/blogs/riderx
    Like climbing? Goto http://www.bicycleclimbs.com

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